The ‘Filipino Flash’ Nonito Donaire wasn’t too flashy on Feb. 4 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, but still did enough to win the WBO’s vacant Super Bantamweight Championship. Donaire came out on the right side of a split decision over former titleholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. by scores of 112-115, 117-110, and 117-110. He also scored a flash knockdown in the ninth round.
The fight started slowly as Puerto Rico’s Vasquez found Donaire’s speed and footwork a little too much. However, he seemed to get more comfortable round after round and started to loosen up. But even when Vasquez did get into a bit of a groove he usually threw just one punch at a time. They didn’t seem to have much power on them, but did cause some swelling around Donaire’s eyes.
Donaire went to Vasquez’s body quite often in the early rounds and landed some solid left hooks there. However, he strayed from this strategy and focused mainly on his opponent’s head as the rounds wore on. Donaire hurt Vasquez in the third round with a good left uppercut and then a follow left to the top of the head. He sensed that Vasquez was hurt and then unleashed a wild flurry with his opponent trapped in a corner. Vasquez survived the round though and had recovered by the start of the fourth.
Vasquez started to turn the tide in the fifth and sixth rounds when he started to follow up his left jabs with some decent right hands. Donaire came back in the seventh, eighth and ninth and dropped Vasquez in the ninth with another beautiful uppercut and left hook.
Donaire’s generally regarded by most boxing fans and experts to be one of the top five-pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but it was hard to tell against Vasquez. It was his first fight in the super bantamweight division though, so maybe that had something to do with it. With the win, Donaire raised his record to 28-1, with 18 KOs while Vazquez’s record fell to 21-2-1, with 17 KOs.
It’s also possible that Donaire’s mediocre performance could have been the result of a damaged or broken left hand. When he took his gloves off in the ring after the bout the hand wraps on his left hand were soaked in blood. However, it was unclear where it came from. Donaire knew he didn’t fight to his potential and admitted it after the fight.
He said he might stay at the 122 lb. super bantamweight division for a few more fights before thinking about moving up in weight again. There wasn’t any controversy surrounding the fight other than some trash talk in pre-fight press conferences. However, there are millions of fans questioning the score card of Ruben Garcia who judged the fight 115-112 for Vasquez, especially after Donaire dropped him in the ninth and had him on the ropes in the third round.
Donaire’s had two mediocre performances in a row now, both on national television in America. If he doesn’t pick up the pace in his next fight it’ll be hard to justify ranking him as one of the planet’s best pound-for pound boxers.